African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Ibibio, Cross River region (southern Nigeria)

Wood with polychrome coating
H 28 cm

The complex structure of this mask denotes the skillful work of the artist in making it expressive by applying unprecedented techniques. The cylindrical eyes are surrounded by huge sockets that pop out from the face, where only the nose seems to be of a balanced size. Some teeth can be seen from inside the open mouth, captured in the act of shouting. White and red alternate to make the expression even more powerful. The whole wooden surface is covered with a thick, crusty, black coating.


€ 8.000 - 10.000

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- George F. Keller antique collection (New York/Paris) (Inv. G.F.K. 206);
- Former Paolo Morigi collection (Lugano);
- Former private collection (Lugano);


Reproduced in:
- MORIGI PAOLO “Raccolta di un amatore d’arte primitiva”, Magliaso, Lugano & Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland 1980, fig. 208, page 216;

- VOLPRECHT KLAUS “Afrika – Kunst am Niger - Katalog” Villa Hügel, Essen 1971;
- LEUZINGER ELSY “The art of black Africa” Milan 1972, page 213, fig. N7;
- KERCHACHE JAQUES & PAUDRAT JEAN-LOUIS & STEPHAN LUCIEN “L’Art africain” Paris 1988, page 403, fig. 476;

A similar mask belonging to the Federal Department of Antiquities in Lagos was exhibited in 1971 in Essen (Villa Hügel) during the “Afrika - Kunst am Niger” exhibition, dedicated to Nigerian works of art. It is an Ibibio polychrome mask 27.5cm high. A colour photo of this was published in the exhibition’s catalogue, on page 39, num. 286. The same colour photo of the mask was later published by Elsy Leuzinger in “The art of black Africa” Milan 1972, page 213, fig. N7.
According to the traditions of different African groups, the stylistic feature of those masks particularly appreciated by the members of the community were handed down from sculptor to sculptor. We know of famous masks created in older times are in fact very similar to each other.
The Ibibio people are a small ethnic group that includes the Eket, Anang and Efik tribes. They live in the eastern region of Nigeria along the delta of Cross River.They are culturally linked to Ibo people and live off hunting and farming.The many ethnic groups living in the southern regions of Nigeria developed cultural traditions that differ from one another. In some cases, we are faced with works whose origin it is difficult to identify.These masks were used by the members of Ekpo society, considered to be the most important religious institutions to which only men could belong. Being part of this society was synonymous with authority and prestige. The masks were used during ceremonies to commemorate ancestors.


African Art

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